The story we carried last week about Maisie Boreham retiring from Mulleys after 43 years took me back to my own days ‘on the buses’.
It wasn’t quite so long ago, but I spent my summer holidays from university working as a bus conductor in the Isle of Wight, and even then women bus drivers were a very rare sight.
I only ever worked with one female driver, the rest of the women on the road were consigned, like me, to being ‘clippies’. You had to be 21 to get a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence in those days, so I was too young, but even if I’d been able to, I don’t think I was ever confident enough to navigate the huge green monsters along the tight, narrow roads of the island.
But I would have liked there to have been more women drivers like Maisie – they might have been a bit gentler on the brakes and accelerator.
I’m pretty sure the drivers enjoyed making life for those trying to work in the back of the bus as difficult as possible.
Balancing in the aisle while using both hands to issue tickets, take money and give change could be quite a dangerous job – more than once I found myself quite literally flying down the entire length of the bus when the driver made a sudden stop!
And trying to deal with pound notes (children, ask your parents) and fivers on the upper deck of an open-topped bus travelling at 40mph along a breezy coast road was another skill soon learned.
Bruises aside, I did take one very useful thing away from my three summers on the buses and that was the knack of doing maths without the use of a calculator (children, ask your grandparents). Though how and why the company came up with prices like £1.69 (adult fare from Ryde to Blackgang Chine on the Service 16 circa 1980) is beyond me.
-- I found myself in Northampton on Sunday – no, I wasn’t lost, it was deliberate – and it was a real delight to discover that all parking there is free on a Sunday and entrance to the town’s museum was also free. If Northampton can do it, why not Bury St Edmunds? I know that I’m much more likely to pay a return visit somewhere if I know I’m not going to be fleeced before I even leave the car park.